Tuesday, October 30, 2012

blog is moving

Just wanted to inform you that this blog is moving to worshipunrated.com. It's a ministry that I've begun. Right now it's still being developed and changed to fit my style. But it is already live for blog posts. Feel free to check it out! Know that this change is immediate though. I won't be posting things here anymore. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

bombs of encouragement

When is the last time you've read Romans 8? The family of God is plagued with people who desperately need encouragement in life, living, and leading. There's a huge number of people who are trying to identify their lives with Christ, and yet a majority of books and blogs that are out there are hurting the church instead of encouraging them, spurring them on toward love and good deeds. Sometimes it's important to know what's wrong and what's right, but again, we can tell what the wrong thing is when we're taught what right looks like.

I need to be reminded constantly, every day even, that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives within me. I need the reminder that the same One who orchestrated the events of Creation is in the process of orchestrating a life that pleasing to Him. I need to hear that the same One who authored the #1 best seller of all time is constantly authoring my faith in Him until He takes me home to be with Him, to live in the place I was made for, to have the body He intended me to have from my beginning, the eternal one that sees hope fulfilled. I need to be reminded that even though I may not know what to say to God, there are two intercessors on my side, the Holy Spirit groaning in God language and the Savior who sits next to Him.

What has happened to pastors? Are we pastoring or condemning? I read this verse that's changed the way I view the "church today," that common phrase that precedes a rebuke, the claim that we've been doing the wrong thing for years and won't change or have difficulty changing. So here's my rebuke for those who lob grenades into God's camp...

Shut up! Change your view of the church and your language! Learn from those who know how to preach a gospel message of mercy and grace without the manipulation of guilt. Guilt is good. It can train us to do the right thing. But sticking something bigger in the wound isn't going to help it heal.

Paul was the best at this and we can see it from his letters to the Roman church. Before the encouragement came, he identified himself with them, the same things they struggle with he did too. At the end of each letter he wrote, he gave them hope to stand firm even when it's tough.

There's a constant trend that we keep forgetting. People live in the world and until they've passed on it's going to be hard to live like Jesus. Paul knew this, identified himself with it, then he launched a grenade of encouragement and hope in the camp. I can imagine their reaction, "You mean I'm not alone? You mean this will keep on happening? You mean God is for me even when it seems like He's not? God's faithful to me too, even when everything's crashing down around me?"

8:12 and following, "I'm a son of God! His Spirit testifies with mine that I belong to Him! God has given me everything that belongs to Him! I'm an heir with Christ!" Paul states that even creation longs for redemption, to see the sons of God to be revealed! Why? Because it's falling apart and it knows it.

Do you see? The people of God need encouragement to hang on because it's hard to. They live with people who distress mercy, who distress grace because they don't believe there is any. And we're used to hurting them because of it without any help to lift them up beyond it.

Then verses 33-34 says that God justifies...who is he that condemns? Arrogant pastors. The ones God justified, the ones on whose side He's on, we spend time accusing and abusing. "The modern church..." then you fill it in. "The church today _______." We've got to stop!

This is the group of people whom God has chosen to proclaim His message of love to the world! If you don't love the church, stop being a pastor and learn how to be a follower! I submit that those who condemn the church of God without encouraging them aren't following Christ either. It has become for them an are of pride.

Love the church! Love this messy group of people who come to God with all kinds of problems seeking help from the One who selflessly and bountifully gives all things! God has an idea for a people whom He's called His own, a people for whom He died...a form of life that looks like what He originally intended. It's our glorious calling to proclaim freedom to them so they can!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

an heir

How many believers understand that we are heirs to receive all that God has? God has made us heirs. He adopted us through the death and resurrection of His Son. All that God has we will receive. How does that make you feel?

I still struggle with some earning issues, as though I am some kind of slave to God. Not a good slave, but one who feels like love or appreciation must be earned. I do things to make God happy with me, to earn His favor. 

Did you notice that an attitude like that has no surrender attached to it? No gratitude? There's a sense of fear involved. And not the good kind of fear. It's a fear that's based in a misunderstanding of Who God really is and how He really feels about us. It distances His love to something kept at an arms reach instead of allowing ourselves to be held within His arms. It makes less of the love God displayed through the death of His only Son, Jesus.

My children are once again teaching me what it means to be a father, and in turn, shows me more of the character of God I want instilled in my life. My children don't have to do anything to earn my love. I've given it to them freely. They don't have to earn eating my food, sleeping in my house, or clothes or any basic provisions. Everything I've given them is exactly what they need. Anything above the needs they have they can live without. They don't present gifts to me in order to earn my favor, but because they love me. How come my attitude with God is different than that?

The question is, why do I feel like I have to earn anything from God when He has already given me everything He has in Christ? We fight for what we hope to become. We think we have to overcome sin and temptation on our own. When we mess up, we call it "being human," which a mistake. We aren't only human, we're the children of God with the presence of His Holy Spirit living within us. We've got a big Father. And being an heir means that all God has belongs to us.

Let me put it this way... In times of frustration, we can call on His patience. In moments of conflict, we can use His peace to get through. In times of need, we can recognize His provision as the Provider. When we've been wronged, we can find strength in Him to forgive. When we're tempted, we have His Word to pull us through. People are untrustworthy, but He is faithful. When we lack the ability to stand, we can call on the faith He's given us to be strong. 

Each moment of sorrow and pain is another moment in which God gives us more of Himself in order to overcome. Each time we face opposition is another opportunity to receive more of the inheritance of Jesus. Sure it may hurt. But being a child of His, an heir of God's Kingdom, means this world doesn't hold anything in comparison to what we're receiving from Him. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

miracles today

Something that keeps jumping out at me in Scripture is faith. It's everywhere. It seems to be very important. We downplay faith a lot in our lives and substitute the word "faith" in place of "religion" because it sounds better. We talk a lot about our own faith and its difference between the faith of others. We say our faith is important to us and is the reason why we live a certain way. When we look at Jesus' life and see the miracles He performed we because of faith.

Take a look with me at Galatians 3:5. The Galatian church had some kind of teaching running through it that messed up the teaching of the gospel which they received by faith. For some reason they thought that now it was necessary to perform the works of the Law as well.

It seems to be easier to follow a list of rules instead of develop a relationship with God based on faith. Believing and obeying the Lord is more difficult and requires a lot more trust than checking things off a list that we've made to describe our own version of righteousness. But the righteousness of God comes through faith and nothing else. Righteousness is given to those who live by faith.

Read a little further and we can get a glimpse of God's definition of faith. Faith is bigger than believing. It's believing and living accordingly. Abraham wouldn't have been considered righteous by God if he didn't live according to the belief that God would fulfill His promise to him. Living by faith develops a relationship with God that's based on trust that He knows what's best. When we follow His Word over what we think is best, we begin to live by faith.

What hurts is knowing that most of the time I don't. We don't as a church sometimes either. Instead of believing that what God has given us is enough to do what He's called us to do, we dig a deep hole of debt to have the state of the art stuff, a building that's beautiful, and a coffee shop.

Verse five says something to me about the way we live. How can God perform miracles when we simply don't allow Him to because of our lack of faith? We do do do and miss miss miss the lesson of faith. God's timing isn't our timing. His thoughts aren't our thoughts. His ways are much higher than ours, like the difference between the earth's surface and the sky (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet we consistently bring God down to earth instead of us reaching up to Him. How long before we grasp the ways of the eternal? How long before we recognize our need for God? How long will it take us to learn to live by faith?

I believe we've lost the ability to see miracles as often as we could. He calls us to walk on water! To live differently than the world! And still Jesus turns to us like He did to the sinking Peter, "Where is your faith?" The moment we place it on ourselves the quicker and deeper we sink. We cannot rise above the water which drowns us unless we have faith, unless we believe and obey.

The miracles we long to see and to proclaim to the world can only happen if faith is present. God can still perform them. We all believe that He can. But the power of God being displayed through our lives gets stifled when we express a lack of faith, a lack of believing and obeying that God will be, like He always has been, true to His Word.

It begins with believing that He's saved us from sin. But God wants to take it further than that. He didn't just save us from sin, but also from the evil of this world (Galatians 1:4). It doesn't mean we won't have problems. It does mean that we can see things from His perspective now. I like what A. W. Tozer said in his book, "The Purpose of Man." He says that the higher up we go with God, the smaller the things of the world appear. But the closer we get to the world, the bigger the problems appear and further away God feels from us. If His ways are higher than ours, we need to soar with God. Those of faith are promised to rise above, God renews their strength to soar above it all.

I want miracles to happen in my life! Don't you? I want to see God work more and more. It takes me living like I believe God is true and will follow through. I just have to be patient for Him, be still and know that He is God.

Friday, September 14, 2012

tearing down the wall

We have a hard time keeping it real, don't we? We change our demeanor and message based on who's listening. We like a good image of ourselves too. That's a problem. It's a big problem. We're fake when we do it. 

I'm in Galatians 2 and Paul talks about going to the apostles to tell them about the message he's been preaching, the leaders agreed, and others disagreed. Paul seems to mention over and over again that God doesn't show favoritism, and that he didn't care who he was talking with. It didn't matter. The message stayed the same for all. Even when Peter decided that the message of the cross wasn't quite good enough for the audience that was coming, Paul didn't care. The message should remain the same regardless of the audience.

I'm sure that in those days anyone could say, "Yeah, but things are different in this case." Don't we use the same excuse? I bet it was difficult for any Jew to see other Jews not living the way they've been brought up. All those things that once mattered didn't matter anymore because Christ destroyed all those barriers through the cross. Now everyone has the chance to know God just like the Jews. I'm sure it was a hard thing to grasp for some of them. Not only that, the law had a bunch of things in it that took a different turn because of Christ. Now food was clean, all food was clean. Gentiles could become clean without having to offer any type of sacrifice or go through a ceremonial cleansing. The message of the gospel has no barriers, and God made that very clear. It can go anywhere. But the teachings of gospel changes lives. 

Let me ask you something. Have you put up barriers to the cross? Each barrier we make is declaring to new believers, long-time Christians, and the world that the cross isn't strong or powerful enough to save us. We must do something to help it. It's always easier to follow a step by step procedure. Faith is intimidating. It means we rely on God above what can appear to be the right thing to do. 

Don't take me wrong on this. Don't get nit-picky about little acts of obedience or morality. Each time we obey God's Word is an act of faith. It's declaring that God knows better than we do and we're going to follow Him because of it. It's those big acts, the things that we don't recognize, and the very small things that we've never thought of that causes us to live by faith. Righteous people are only made righteous by faith in Christ. Faith is seen in those who believe and obey God regardless of the cost to themselves. And the terrifying truth is that we can very easily get caught up in a nit-picky thing and, in the process, build a wall in front of the cross. 

That's what Paul was telling Peter. If they're justified by faith, so are we. Why are we trying to change the gospel by now rebuilding something that Christ destroyed? If we rebuild it, CHRIST becomes a minister of SIN!!! We're representatives of Him! It's supposed to be Christ living in us, not ourselves anymore. If we're trying to earn God's favor instead of living in it, if we're trying to gain approval from those who appear to have some type of importance, if we're not real with other believers, then we don't believe the cross is enough! If we died to it, why are we trying to rebuild it?

This is crazy stuff. I've been a believer much longer than I haven't been. It's like hearing something new, or something forgotten. Remember Jesus? Remember what He came to do? Remember what He set me free from? The law shows us that we can't earn it. The law is there because people break it. If Christ set us free from the law by giving us life through His death, which the law what killed Him, why are we trying to live according to it? The shows us that we have sin. And our sin is what put Him to death. Christ came to set us free from the law of sin and death!

We may not be living according to the Old Testament law, but we do have a tendency to make our own. We tell people to clean up before they come to church. People actually believe that they're not good enough to be associated with us! Dude, that sucks. Doesn't that hurt a little bit? Do you know what that means? We're responsible for building something that has been destroyed. We've made Christ a minister of sin instead of grace. 

We've got to stop being fake people. We need to start glorying in our weakness to praise God's strength. We don't think we're weak. We don't think we need help. And unfortunately, most of us could possibly do just fine if we found Christ's body today. Shame on us! We need to remember that we still need Him, desperately need Him! If we don't, we're leading everyone away from the historical Son of God and on toward a buddy that lives on a cloud in our mind. 

Let me ask you again, and this time, pray that God reveals it to you and ask Him to cause an explosion in your soul. Have you put up barriers to the cross? 

This verse makes all the difference. 
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20 NASB)
Stop trying to live. Let Christ live in you. Stop trying to live what you think you know and begin trusting that God knows better. Not because He does know better, but because He loves you and gave Himself up for you. See what He's done? Remember.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

finding satisfaction

This might not have anything to do with finding satisfaction, but a lot of us are looking for it. If you're anything like me, most of the reasons I do what I do is to find satisfaction. My work doesn't get published or printed until I find satisfaction with it.

Our lives are consumed with a quest for satisfaction, and we look for it in just about everything. What we don't find satisfaction in receives an unwelcoming spirit from us, or gets sold on craigs list or left on the side of the road hoping to be picked up by someone who will care for it.

Unfortunately many of us see this happening with our stuff. I recently replaced the sink in our kitchen. There wasn't any need for a new sink. But I saw an orphan sink on craigs list that was deeper and white that would totally change the feel of our kitchen to even more of a country theme. It was two whole inches deeper than our old one, and makes for an easier washing of all the large stuff we use for dinners. Sad to say, the old sink had to go and the new one came in to take its place. In the process, though, I couldn't get the sink drains or garbage disposal seperated from the old sink. It went by the road in hopes that someone else could find a home for it.

We throw away the stuff that doesn't bring us satisfaction. We look for the newest thing in hopes that it will fill a void we didn't know we had until we are told that we need it.

God spoke to me through Isaiah the other day. I've been mulling it around in my head for a long time now and just have to tell you what God has taught me. In chapter 55, there are some things in there that will change your life and your perspective if you allow it. The first verse talks about buying milk and bread without cost. It's interesting that God tells us to buy something for free. It makes me wonder what He means about buying something "without cost."

I think what God is talking about is that our seeking a relationship with Him costs us nothing but time. If God is asking us to come and buy something from Him without cost, it must be good. It's not a cost to us, but it cost Him everything. He freely gave so we could freely receive. The passages before proclaim the coming of a Messiah who would die on a cross to wash our sins away. Could it be that the call of God can bring us the satisfaction we've been looking for for such a long time?

The next verse is what hit me pretty hard. It asks, "Why do you spend your money for what is not food, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" Afterward, an invitation to come take from that which is living, that does impart satisfaction.

In our attempts for satisfaction, often times we look to God last. We tend to turn toward ourselves and our money, our friends and family before we think about turing toward God first. We find these great deals on things that will eventually get thrown out by us or someone else instead of finding satisfaction with what God has given us to begin with. I know this might seem a little off-base from what Isaiah says, but I don't think it is. It's easy to get caught in the race for the better thing that's out there.

Ultimately, it comes down to a question of faith. God asks about why we spend our money on things that don't satisfy. His invitation comes to us from all fronts. But we typically have our backs toward Him and don't see the invitation because we've turned around to see the shiny object that we caught a glimpse of in our peripheral vision.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our purchases begin with the thought that this new thing will make our lives better than they were. Do we believe, really believe that God is enough, that His FREE gift is worth it for us?

These verses share a type of marketplace calling. The first words are a cry for attention to the product for sale. When we see signs stating that something is FREE we turn around. We walk over to it and see if the FREE item is worth having. Is the FREE gift of God worth having? Check out the product that doesn't cost anything and see for yourself.

The other thing, we seem to always go to the mall without having any money to spend. We spend wages we haven't earned on things we don't need thinking our lives will be better now that we have them. Then we get the bill from what at the time didn't cost us anything. It bites our butts (that's where our wallets reside).

But God offers something that never even required our wallets to be taken out of our pockets. The only thing it costs is time. Time to listen. Time to spend with Him. Time to incline in His direction. He promises abundance if we'll incline in His direction.

Here's the issue and what we have to deal with. We walk through a marketplace of different promises made from a bunch of telemarketers. Each one promises an abundant life. But only One has the real authentic product and the rest will leave us coming back hoping the warranty is still valid. Is it too good to be true? A FREE gift of life? A real life, like He promises in verse 3, to truly live?

It's not too good to be true because it is true and it's completely good! Any other product is a scam set up by the same corporation. Why would we look anywhere else?

How does contentment not fit into this? We look all over for a better product. We don't turn to God. And that's how we got in the mess we're in. We look to God to pull us out of our problems without looking to Him first before we create the problem ourselves. We make decisions without involving Him, don't we? We can handle it, or so we think. Then we're stuck in a bad situation asking God to save us once again from something we got ourselves into.

Satisfaction can be found in the security of our trust placed in God alone. If God is for us, who can be against us? He will never leave you, nor forsake you. He is with you always, even to the end of the age. Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Do you believe that God is enough? How does your life and the decisions you've made thus far proclaim that?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

getting started

Back in the day, dad had a little blue honda civic hatchback made in 1983. It was the car that took him to work every day. Eventually it became my first car. Do you remember those? Have you ever seen one? Imagine a Geo Metro but smaller. This car could fit in a Metro. It might be able to fit in your bedroom closet. It was a four-speed manual drive car that could easily change lanes by driving underneath semi truck trailers. I never did that, but the thought did occur to me a few times.

There was this moment in time when the car wouldn't start unless you pushed it forward or let it roll down a hill. I think it was preteen at the time. Dad's car gave out and shut off while he was on a DFW highway. He took the exit ramp to get off the busy road and coasted into a neighborhood to avoid any accidents. (If anyone has ever driven through Dallas/Fort Worth, you know that it requires some real skill to coast off the highway without getting hit by some other car.)

He gave us a call from his cell phone and we met him to help him get his car started up again. He told us, "Push the car and I'll try and get it going." There was no hill. It was a completely flat road. I had no help. It was ridiculously hot outside. I gave it all I had. I even grunted, hoping that the grunt would help me push a little harder. I starting moving the car forward, pushed harder to gain momentum, dad turned the key and we got the car started. When he got it started, he zoomed forward a bit and I just got off the back end of the car enough to keep myself from falling headfirst to the pavement. When I stood up all the way, I experienced something I had never experienced before: I saw stars. I pushed so hard that I was seeing stars! Has that ever happened to you? It took awhile before the stars went away.

Do you ever feel like you need a little push to get going? Or are you the one that seems to be doing all the pushing? You might be the one getting pushed and don't like it. Sometimes we all need a little motivation to get moving. However, some of us have become complacent enough that trying to get started is like pushing a car with square tires.

In Galatians 1:11-24, Paul wrote about the start up of his ministry. For some strange reason, he'd always had that motivation to do something for God. During the early years it was all about him working for God. After his conversion it became all about God doing the work in his life and him telling others about it. God had this man in mind to work through him to point to people to God. God then revealed His Son in him to preach the gospel, which is a continuing revealing of His Son.

There's something in the early stages of his ministry that I'd like to point out to you, though. It convicts me on how I do ministry and what kind of ministry I do. Paul didn't ask anyone if it'd be okay for him to go and preach. He just did. He knew the calling and acted upon it. The class of people he spoke with made no difference to him either. There was no one he tried to please anymore. Just God. That's all there was because there wasn't anything else. God already did the work so why did he need to do it anymore? God gave him favor. God approved of him because of Jesus. What other approval did he need?

What if we had that kind of attitude in ministry? I think a lot of us don't do things because of fear of what others might think. If you're anything like me, we don't begin because we're still thinking about the approval of men. But we don't need it! God has already done the work and now He has already given us approval because of His Son! God has already given us His favor! What other approval do we need?

God jump-started our ministry and pushed us into the momentum of His grace. All we need to do is flow with Him, with what He's already doing. When we can get ourselves, the desire for approval out of the way, we'll be able to declare with Paul the statement I hope defines my ministry: And they praised God because of me.